Page images

whom they are exercised. The very reverse.

He mentions them as horrible things, tending to inflict on the people a thousand evils, and to bring on the ruler a continual train of dangers. Yet he states, that your acquisitions in India will be a detriment instead of an advantage, if you destroy arbitrary power, unless you can reduce all the religious establishments, all the civil institutions, and tenures of land, into one uniform mass ; i. e. unless by acts of arbitrary power you extinguish all the laws, rights, and religious principles of the people, and force them to an uniformity; and on that uniformity build a system of arbitrary power.

But nothing is more false, than that despotism is the constitution of any country in Asia, that we are acquainted with. It is certainly not true .of any Mahomedan constitution. But if it were., do your lordships really think, that the nation would bear, that any human creature would bear, to hear an English governour defend himself on such principles ? or, if he can defend himself on such principles, is it possible to deny the conclusion, that no man in India has a security for any thing, but by being totally independent of the British government ?

Here he has declared his opinion, that he is a despotick prince, that he is to use arbitrary power, and of course all his acts are covered with that shield.

" I know, says he, the constitution of Asia only from its practice.Will your lordships submit to hear the corrupt practices of ipankind made the principles of government ?-No; it will be your pride and glory to teach men intrusted with power, that, in their use of it, they are to conform to principles, and not to draw their principles from the corrupt practice of any man whatever. Was there ever heard, or could it be conceived, that a governour would dare to heap up all the evil practices, all the cruelties, oppressions, extortions, corruptions, briberies, of all the ferocious usurpers, desperate robbers, thieves, cheats, and jugglers, that ever had office from one end of Asia to another, and consolidating all this mass of the crimes and absurdities of barbarous domination into one code, establish it as the whole duty of an English governour? I believe, that till this time so audacious a thing was never attempted by man. VOL. VII.


He have arbitrary power! My lords, the East-India Company have not arbitrary power to give him ; the king has no arbitrary power to give him ; your lordships have not; nor the Commons; nor the whole legislature. We have no arbitrary power to give, because arbitrary power is a thing, which neither any man can hold nor any man can give. No man can lawfully govern himself according to his own will, much less can one person be governed by the will of another. We are all born in subjection, all born equally, high and low, governours and governed, in subjection to one great, immutable, pre-existent law, prior to all our devices, and prior to all our contrivances, paramount to all our ideas, and all our sensations, antecedent to our very existence, by which we are knit and connected in the eternal frame of the universe, out of which we cannot stir.

This great law does not arise from our conventions or compacts; on the contrary, it gives to our conventions and compacts all the force and sanction they can have ;—it does not arise from our vain institutions. Every good gift is of God; all power is of God ;—and He, who has given the power, and from whom alone it originates, will never suffer the exercise of it to be practised upon any less solid foundation than the power itself.

If then all dominion of man over man is the effect of the divine disposition, it is bound by the eternal laws of Him, that gave it, with which no human authority can dispense; neither he, that exercises it, nor even those, who are subject to it: and, if they were mad enough to make an express compact, that should release their magistrate from his duty, and should declare their lives, liberties, and properties dependent upon, not rules and laws, but his mere capricious will, that covenant would be void. The acceptor of it has not his authority increased, but he has his crime doubled. Therefore can it be imagined, if this be true, that he will suffer this great gift of government, the greatest, the best, that was ever given by God to mankind, to be the plaything and the sport of the feeble will of a man, who, by a blasphemous, absurd, and petulant usurpation, would place his own feeble, contemptible, ridiculous will in the place of the divine wisdom and justice ?

The title of conquest makes no difference at all. No conquest can give such a right; for conquest, that is force, cannot convert its own injustice into a just title, by which it may rule others at its pleasure. By conquest, which is a more immediate designation of the hand of God, the conquerour succeeds to all the painful duties and subordination to the power of God, which belonged to the sovereign, whom he has displaced, just as if he had come in by the positive law, of some descent, or some election. To this at least he is strictly bound—he ought to govern them, as he governs his own subjects. But every wise conquerour has gone much further than he was bound to go. It has been his ainbition and his policy to reconcile the vanquished to his fortune, to show, that they had gained by the change, to convert their momentary suffering into a long benefit, and to draw from the humiliation of his enemies an accession to his own glory. This has been so constant a practice, that it is to repeat the histories of all politick conquerours in all nations and in all times; and I will not so much distrust your lordships' enlightened and discriminating studies and correct memories, as to allude to one of them. I will only show you, that the court of directors, under whom he served, bas adopted that idea, that they constantly inculcated it to him, and to all the servants, that they run a parallel between their own and the native government, and supposing it to be very evil did not hold it up as an example to be followed, but as an abuse to be corrected; that they never made it a question, whether India is to be improved by English law. and liberty, or English law and liberty vitiated by Indian corruption.

No, my lords, this arbitrary power is not to be had by conquest. Nor can any sovereign bave it by succession, for no man can succeed to fraud, rapine, and violence ; neither by compact, covenant, or submission,- for men cannot covenant themselves out of their rights and their duties; nor by any other means can arbitrary power be conveyed to any

Those, who give to others such rights, perform acts, that are void as they are given, good indeed and valid only as tending to subject themselves and those, who act with


them, to the divine displeasure ; because morally there can te no such power. Those, who give, and those, who receive, arbitrary power are alike criminal ; and there is no man but is bound to resist it to the best of his


whereever it shall show its face to the world. It is a crime to bear it, when it can be rationally shaken off. Nothing but absolute impotence can justify men in not resisting it to the utmost of their ability.

Law and arbitrary power are in eternal enmity. Name me à magistrate, and I will name property ; name me power, and I will name protection. It is a contradiction in terms ; it is blasphemy in religion; it is wickedness in politicks, to say, that any man can have arbitrary power. In every patent of office the duty is included. For what else does a magistrate exist ? To suppose for power is an absurdity in idea. Judges are guided and governed by the eternal laws of justice, to which we are all subject. We may bite our chains if we will, but we shall be made to know ourselves, and be taught, that man is born to be governed by law; and he, that will substitute will in the place of it, is an enemy to God.

Despotism does not in the smallest degree abrogate, alter, or lessen any one duty of any one relation of life, or weaken the force or obligation of any one engagement or contract whatsoever. Despotism, if it means any thing, that is at all defensible, means a mode of government, bound by no written rules, and coerced by no controulling magistracies, or well settled orders in the state. But if it has no written law, it neither does, nor can, cancel the primeval, indefeasible, unalterable law of nature, and of nations ; and if no magistracies controul its exertions, those exertions must derive their limitation and direction either from the equity and moderation of the ruler, or from downright revolt on the part of the subject by rebellion, divested of all its criminal qualities. The moment a sovereign removes the idea of security and protection from his subjects, and declares, that he is every thing, and they nothing, when he declares, that no contract he makes with them can or ought to bind him, he then declares war upon them. He is no longer sovereign ; they are no longer subjects.

No man, therefore, has a right to arbitrary power. But the thought, which is suggested by the depravity of him, who brings it forward, is supported by a gross confusion of ideas and principles, which your lordships well know, how to discern and separate. It is manifest, that in the eastern governments, and the western, and in all governments, the supreme power in the state cannot, whilst that state subsists, be rendered criminally responsible for its actions ; otherwise it would not be the supreme power. It is certainly true; but the actions do not change their nature by losing their responsibility. The arbitrary acts, which are unpunished, are not the less vitious, though none but God, the conscience, and the opinions of mankind take cognizance of them.

It is not merely so in this or that government, but in all countries. The king in this country is undoubtedly unaccountable for his actions. The House of Lords, if it should ever exercise (God forbid I should suspect it would ever do what it has never done), but if it should ever abuse its judicial power, and give such a judgment as it ought not to give, whether from fear of popular clamour on the one hand, or predilection to the prisoner on the other ; if they abuse their judgments, there is no calling them to an account for it, And so, if the Commons should abuse their power,-nay, if they should have been so greatly delinquent as not to have prosecuted this offender, they could not be accountable for it; there is no punishing them for their acts, because we exercise a part of the supreme power. But are they less criminal, less rebellious against the Divine Majesty ? are they less hateful to man, whose opinions they ought to cultivate as far as they are just ? No. Till society fall into a state of dissolution, they cannot be aecountable for their acts. But it is from confounding the unaccountable character, inherent in the supreme power, with arbitrary power, that all this confusion of ideas has arisen.

Even upon a supposition, that arbitrary power can exist any where, which we deny totally, and which your lordships will be the first and proudest to deny, still absolute, supreme dominion was never conferred or delegated by you ; much

« PreviousContinue »